I’ve had a variety of different SPED teaching positions. When I was in my resource room working with students so they could keep up in a regular classroom environment, I was always trying to come up with ways to attract parents to the classroom to become involved. Open houses and regular meetings were always there, and parents knew they could drop by before or after school. In my resource teacher days, there were no cell phones, iPhones, or even internet for that matter, but I made flyers and bulletin boards to advertise upcoming events and spread the word around school.
I sometimes encountered "the over-involved parent". If you have never had one of these, the idea may be foreign that a parent can be over-involved, but in SPED it happens with some frequency.
I'm not talking about the Mom that is at the door every day at 3:00 to collect her child and is a bit overprotective. I'm talking about litigious people who know their rights; they've read the 94-142 law book nine times and know how to pull strings, bully people, and make pests of themselves.
If you have not provided the expensive equipment one Mom has demanded and added to her child's IEP last year, she will threaten a lawsuit and never hesitate to follow through. She has a lawyer on speed dial and this lawyer is an expert in special education law. She will call you at home, disturb your personal space, and find ways to bump into you out in the community where she can corner you with new demands and make you feel miserable.
On the one hand, you want to be responsive; these parents are trying to act in the best interest of their special needs child. There is little sympathy for budget realities and she will pester and harass everyone until everything is in place for the use of her child.
You are tireless in the classroom; however, you are not required to put up with the level of harassment that this parent dishes out. There are a few ways to combat this problem. One is to refer her to your Principal or district Special Ed Director. The district also has an attorney who can intervene to answer any legal questions that may arise if the problems become extreme.
Another way is to find a job for this person. If she wants to be involved, look at it as an opportunity. Maybe there are shortages of aides and she would be willing to work with you in the classroom to fill that void. I like this solution best, because it gives her a chance to see you in action and she'll know you are on her team after all. You might find you can turn her negative energy into a positive force working in the best interests of her child.
The third way is to out-legal her. Make sure you too have read 94-142 inside and out too and can respond intelligently when she starts talking about page 12 paragraph 4. You'll find there are exceptions in the literature and in case law that may support you if you must turn down an especially complex request. There is a compromise in there somewhere; there may be another teacher in the building with the equipment or software you need and you can share.
Here are a couple of sites I like that delve into this issue in some detail:
A great smile and a "sure, come on in" message to all parents is usually the best strategy of all.
Don't be shy, comment on this blog, what do you think, do you have an over-involved parent? Let us know how you handled it.